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Music

Did Bob Dylan ever meet The Beatles?

The 1960s was a momentous time, one widely regarded as the ‘swinging sixties’, a time characterised by societal development and the hedonistic abandon of those who lived it. It was mainly driven by the era’s younger generation, now known as the ‘Baby Boomers’ shedding the manacles of the past and moving into the future via technological developments, flower power and attitude.

If you were to cast your mind back on the ’60s, you would be dazzled by the number of game-changing events that happened across the board. Whilst the world was engulfed by the antithesis of the ideologically driven Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, many developments were made that were key to the development of the human race. The first men on the moon, the civil rights movements, feminism, you can trace a lot of where we are now back to the decade.

Artistically, the ’60s was nothing short of pioneering. The concept of popular culture became fully realised by creatives in the realms of art, music and fashion. Warhol, the Beatles and Sassoon were just three of the key players in each respective field. In fact, The Beatles were without a doubt the most pioneering artists of the ’60s. They broke down the barriers of music, attitudes, and fashion and changed how society and consumers acted. The advent of the phenomenon of ‘Beatlemania’ in the mid-60s showed the world the new commercial potential of music.

Although they were only together for ten years, disbanding in 1970, without The Beatles, music today would not be the same. They spearheaded the iconic ‘British Invasion’, mastered the concept album, developed recording techniques, gave us an innumerable amount of hit singles, and off-stage they were the first truly global ‘rockstars’. They also bridged the gap between music and film, which was truly groundbreaking for the time.

Across the pond, America was also brimming with its own musical pioneers. The premier of these was undoubtedly ‘The Bard’, Bob Dylan. Widely hailed as the ‘Voice of a Generation’, along with the Beatles, Dylan soundtracked that momentous decade. Although he has been a celebrated artist since then, it is his work during the ’60s that remains his most celebrated. Songs such as 1963’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and 1964’s ‘The Times They Are a-Changin” became anthems for the civil rights and peace movements.

A folk musician and troubadour at heart, Dylan’s lyrics in the ’60s touched on the political, social and philosophical, always staying relevant to what was unfolding around him. In conjunction with a hefty dose of literary references, Dylan defied conventions and made himself a countercultural hero.

Given that the decade is characterised by the perennial rubbing of shoulders between its stars, there can be no surprise that the Beatles and Bob Dylan would cross paths. In fact, The Beatles’ leading man, Paul McCartney, went as far as to label Dylan “our idol”. He explained: “I could feel myself climbing a spiral walkway as I was talking to Dylan.”

Adding: “I felt like I was figuring it all out, the meaning of life.” This is the story of the relationship between the Beatles and Bob Dylan.

Did Bob Dylan ever meet The Beatles?

Unsurprisingly, The Beatles and Dylan would cross paths many times over the years, both when the Beatles were in existence and after they broke up. As noted by McCartney’s statement above, their relationship would be characterised by a push and pull of ideas, mostly involving the Beatles being inspired by the unwavering character of Bob Dylan.

It is widely known that Dylan had a massive impact on the songwriting of Beatles’ frontman John Lennon. Even more interestingly, Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Dylan would meet so many times over the years that Harrison would recruit Dylan for his supergroup, The Travelling Wilbury’s in 1988.

They formed a brilliant friendship, and Dylan is widely credited with helping to shape Harrison’s illustrious solo career.

(L-R) Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Tom Petty (Credit: Wikimedia)

Where did Bob Dylan meet The Beatles?

It was in a room at the glitzy Delmonico Hotel on the corner of Park Avenue and 59th in New York City. This encounter didn’t happen by chance, though. It was an engineered situation by the mutual friend and journalist, Al Aronowitz.

What would ensue would be career-defining for The Beatles and would be life-changing for both. Aronowitz would later say” “Until the advent of rap, pop music remained largely derivative of that night at the Delmonico.”

He declared, “That meeting didn’t just change pop music – it changed the times.”

(L-R) Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney. (Credit: Harry Benson)

When did Bob Dylan meet The Beatles?

On Friday 28th August 1964, the two juggernauts would come into contact for the first time, courtesy of the era’s premier fixer, Aronowitz. It came following the Merseysiders’ performance to thousands of “hysterical” fans at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, New York. ‘Beatlemania’ was in full swing. 

Prior to the meeting, it was a pivotal time for both acts. Dylan had hit his artistic stride with 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and its successor, 1964’s The Times They Are A-Changin’. On the other hand, the Beatles were also churning out successive number one hits. In fact, this show in Queens was part of their first-ever world tour, denoting the chapter where they had first started to experience a level of fame that was hitherto unheard of. 

After their show, the Beatles were excited to meet the mysterious Dylan as they wanted to pick his brains on his songwriting technique, amongst various other things. 

Bob Dylan had a significant impact on The Beatles. (Credit: Alamy)

What happened when Bob Dylan met The Beatles?

This encounter has gone down in legend. During this meeting, Dylan would introduce The Beatles to marijuana, something that would set them on their way to artistic and personal enlightenment and act as a gateway to all things psychedelic. In a sense, without this meeting, it is likely the second half of the Beatles’ career, where they really pioneered, would not have been the same.

Without the machinations of Aronowitz, we could say goodbye to Rubber SoulRevolver and Sgt. Pepper. In fact, 1965’s Rubber Soul was defined by the band as their “pot album”, so that says it all. 

The hilarious aspect of this encounter is that Dylan brought his green ice breaker along with him as he had mistakenly concluded that the Beatles were already adherents of Mary Jane. This misconception stemmed from Dylan mishearing the lyrics to 1964’s ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’. He took the line “I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hide” to be “I get high, I get high”. Ironically, this mistake would have far-reaching consequences. 

Later, McCartney recalled: “Until then we’d been hard scotch and coke men”. The story goes that the joint was passed around before Ringo Starr elected to finish the rest of it to himself, unaware of the etiquette of sharing. Everyone was having a blast, many joints were puffed and the ‘Fab Four’ were beside themselves with laughter. 

Later, John Lennon recalled: “The Beatles had gone beyond comprehension. We were smoking marijuana for breakfast. We were well into marijuana and nobody could communicate with us, we were just glazed eyes, giggling all the time.”

Bob Dylan introduced The Beatles to pot. (Credit: Alamy)

Did Bob Dylan and The Beatles like each other?

In short, yes. As we have discussed prior, The Beatles were already huge fans of Bob Dylan by the time they embarked on their mammoth world tour.

Tudor Jones, an academic historian, wrote of their relationship in his recent book, Bob Dylan And The British Sixties. He explains that The Beatles, who prior to meeting Dylan wrote songs concerned with the light subject of “boy-girl romance”, soon changed their modus operandi after this encounter.  

On the other hand, Dylan was a huge admirer of the massive waves the Beatles were making, just initially, he was too shy to admit it in public. He told his biographer Anthony Scaduto, “I just kept it to myself that I really dug them”. He explained that “everybody else thought they were just for the teenyboppers.”

His praise didn’t end there though. Showing himself to be keenly perceptive, Dylan opined that they were “doing things no one else was doing. I knew they were pointing in the direction that music had to go.” He concluded, “It seemed to me a definite line was being drawn. This was something that never happened before.”

In terms of the massive impact he had on the Beatles, Dylan would be acutely aware of it. Regarding the Beatles’ classic ‘Norwegian Wood’, from Rubber Soul, Dylan would claim that the song was so similar to his style that he made a parody of the song, in the form of ‘Fourth Time Around’. Subsequently, it has been taken as a not so subtle mocking of John Lennon. Allegedly, when listening to Rubber Soul, Dylan claimed, “What is this? It’s me, Bob. [John’s] doing me! Even Sonny & Cher are doing me, but, fucking hell, I invented it.”

The Beatles’ stadium-filling tunes would also have a huge impact on the songwriting style Dylan adopted thereafter. He had a significant hand in creating folk-rock, and via the Beatles’ commercial blueprint, he managed to bring his socially conscious songs to a wider audience. His well-documented shift to ‘electric’ in 1965, beginning with Bringing It All Back Home, is widely credited with being influenced by Liverpool’s favourite sons. 

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